share your table

by Jorden Nigro

I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating the New Year. If you did something traditional, if you did something new, if you slept through it, whatever you chose, I hope it was what you wanted and that you were happy. This time of year is filled with resolutions, reflections and the general concept of starting anew. I am not big on making resolutions. We all have things to work on. For me, I feel like I am adding to that list every day, so going out of my way to add something else, simply because of the calendar, is somewhat exhausting. That being said, it’s pretty much impossible for me to get through a new year without thinking about what makes me feel good, what makes me feel bad, what I’d like to carry forth and what I’d like to let go of for the coming year.

I like to eat. More than liking to eat though, I like to share my table. I like to eat because it is something I do with people I love. Good company makes good food better. The simplest meal, enjoyed with the best of friends, can feel like the most decadent thing on earth. There is no doubt in my mind that love enhances food.  I don’t mean the love that goes into cooking it (though I think that’s important too), I mean the love that goes into sharing it. When you’re sharing food with people you love and it comes out terribly, they forgive you and you let it go. Once I made one of my favorite Julia Child salmon recipes for some dear friends and I used purple carrots instead of orange, thinking it would be so pretty. What actually happened is the carrots turned the sauce purple. It was still yummy, but it looked like something out of Harry Potter. And I was with people that I love. And we laughed. And we ate. And dinner was purple. And life was perfect.

I am thankful that we are fortunate enough in our lives to have the means to share our table. When I was in college and I could barely afford to pay my rent, I would go the farmers market and spend $10 on tomatoes and fresh basil so that I could make a simple pasta dish for friends coming to share my tiny table, in my tiny house. It doesn’t take much and I am sure it has made me a better person. For all the “personal growth” I have left to do, this is one thing I will not change. I will always share my table. Even if I am not always as gracious a host as I hope to be, and if sometimes I have moments of anxiety wanting everything to be “just so” before people arrive, I will share my table and I will keep those other things on the aforementioned list.  I have learned so much about my friends and my family over the dinner table. Stories that go on for days, arguments that remind me to listen more and talk less, confessions of love, stories of loss and the finding of God, all the world’s problems solved over a filet of fresh King Salmon and salad greens from the garden. For those moments, I am grateful. Many dinners in our house are last minute, friends staying to eat after stopping by to say hello, or an afternoon visit that has quietly dwindled into the evening. These are some of my favorites, as they leave no time for worrying if the laundry is done, or the kitchen is clean, they only leave time for the good stuff.

I do not consider myself a “foodie”. In fact, I have a slight aversion to that word and I tend to recoil a bit when people refer to me as such. After much thought as to why this is, I think I’ve realized that to me, the term “foodie” seems to put food above all else. It’s all about the perfect and hard to find ingredients, the technique that took hours to achieve, whatever the new fad is. For me, that’s not what’s so good about food. What’s so good about food is that it has the ability to bring people together. Sure, all those things are to be appreciated and yet they are not what motivates me to go into my kitchen and start chopping the garlic after working all day. Sharing my table with the man I love (and anyone else who might pop in) is what motivates me to do that. I have come to feel that community starts with sharing your table. Simple food and eating it with loved ones new and old, is a small thing to offer, and I am glad I can do it.

My challenge to you in 2013, which I submit with gratitude for your taking the time to read this, is to share your table, however humble it may be.  Invite those old friends that you’ve been missing, ask the new friends that you’re intrigued by. Don’t worry if your house is a mess or you don’t think you’re a very good cook.  If you wait for perfection, you’ll never do it. Remember, the food will be better in the company of friends, with good stories.  Get to know your community. Learn what others value. Share your table. And in the wise words of Ms. Child, “Bon appetite!” Happy New Year.

In our dining room we have one of NikKi McClure’s prints.  When I saw it (already a fan of Nikki’s work), I felt like my life philosophy had been put on a lovely piece of art work. Clearly, it had to be in our home. I look at it everyday, and I am so glad it’s there as a constant reminder. Thank you, Nikki for giving me permission to use this image.